A look at the top stories from the 2003-04 school year

Staff photo by Eric Lusk

Bringing down the house: Harold Mitchell, left celebrates after Mingus' win over Page this year. Before the contest, Page had won 42 straight in Grand Canyon play. the 54-50 Mingus win broke that streak.

Nice guys do finish first

A coaches dream. That’s how John Uidenich described golfer Stephen Cook after the state tournament.

Cook outlasted two competitors in a three-way playoff to claim Mingus’ first individual title since Marty James in 1990. He sank a 25-foot putt in the sudden-death round for the win, a shot unmatched by Billy Hoyt from Payson and Bradshaw’s Chris Oelson.

Fake-punt pass clinches Mingus upset in Tucson

The Sabino Sabercats will always have a special place in Mingus Union football lore.

The Tucson high school served as the final hoop the Marauders had to jump through to win the 1997 state championship.

And Mingus jumped well on that crisp December afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium, defeating the Sabercats with authority, 23-14, and earning one of the most coveted trophies in Arizona prep sports.

No longer was Mingus an outpost high school and pushover foe for the Phoenix and Tucson elite. The "Farm Boys," as some fans from south of here liked to call them, proved they could hang with anyone.

During the opening round of the state playoffs in 2003, the two met once more. Once again, it was the Marauders who came out on top.

Down 20-14 in the fourth quarter, Mingus went for a risky fourth-down play. Instead of punting from their own 24-yard line, coach Bob Young called for the fake punt. John Wixom hit Ray Rivera for a 76-yard touchdown to clinch the game.

It was the first playoff win for Mingus since topping Sabino in 1997.

Marauders tame region’s best, win top seed for state playoffs

The Marauders’ boys soccer team went on a tear during the final week of the regular season, shutting out three foes and winning the school’s first Grand Canyon Region tournament championship trophy. Mingus blanked Page 5-0 on Tuesday, knocked off top-seeded Flagstaff 2-0 on Wednesday and then beat second-seeded Sinagua 2-0 in Thursday’s title game.

Mingus’ eighth, ninth and 10th shutouts of the season couldn’t have come at a better time seeing that the team Mingus fourth in the regular season GCR standings but will carried a number one seed into the state 4A playoffs.

Unfortunately, the top seed didn’t help. A goal in the final 10 minutes by Tempe ended its trip to the tournament early.

Giant Killers

Mingus Union has been on the wrong side of heartache several times in recent boys basketball meetings with Page.

There was the double-overtime defeat in 2003, when Sand Devil Alvin Smith hit a buzzer-beating jumper at the end of regulation to avert an almost certain Marauder upset.

In 2002, 6-10 bruiser Matt Haryasz (now at Stanford) played the role of Mingus killer – twice. In the first game at Page, he swished a jumper at the buzzer for the win. Then in the rematch in Cottonwood, he came alive down the stretch as the Marauders lost the lead and the game in OT.

This year, though, Mingus finally turned the tide on their string of misfortune against their rivals from the Utah border. Coach Bob Woods’ team held onto a tenuous lead down the stretch and held off the three-time Grand Canyon Region champs 54-50.

Although Mingus didn’t advance to state this year, the win was significant. It snapped Page’s reign of 42 consecutive win in the GCR and set the tone for next year’s squad.

Agony of defeat follows thrill of playoff victory

After the final team huddle, senior Drew Coffey wandered off into left field by himself, eventually crouching down and staring blankly into the grass.

The scene was a stark contrast from just 24 hours earlier when the Mingus Union pitcher could hardly contain himself with jubilation, charging into left field to celebrate a win with teammates.

Welcome to the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Coffey and his Marauder teammates lived both in a short span this week, beating Greenway 10-9 in the first round of the state playoffs — breaking a string of early exits — then falling to Catalina Foothills 5-3 in the next day’s 4A quarterfinals.

While one game had Mingus players believing in the dream of a first baseball state championship for the school, the other brought them back to the reality that a 4A trophy remains painfully out of reach.

GAME 1 – The Thrill: Mingus found itself in a 9-8 hole heading into the bottom of the fifth. Lay singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth and Wacker delivered his second two-run homer of the game to put Mingus over the top. It was Wacker’s ninth homer of the season – and fourth in the past three games.

Coffey, who had been hit pretty hard by the Demons in stretches, proved nearly untouchable in the top of the seventh to seal it.

GAME 2 – The Agony: Mingus and Catalina were unable to get on the board through three-and-a-half innings against starters Tyler Backus (Mingus) and Jim Wilson (Foothills).

The Marauders finally broke the ice in the bottom of the fourth when Wacker and Backus both singled with one out, and Scott Wilcox put a nice ball in play with two outs. Catalina Foothills misplayed Wilcox’s shot, and Joey Rosas – running for Wacker – came home.

Another run scored when Helgeson ripped a double into centerfield.

Foothills, the champs of the Kino Region, finally found its groove in the fifth. Three straight hits gave the Falcons one run. A hit batsmen loaded the bases, and another single tied the game.

Mingus worked a Tyler Butler-to-Eric Halter-to-Coffey double play, but a runner scored from third to make the game 3-2 Foothills. After a passed ball allowed a fourth run to score, the Marauders finally closed down the inning.

That was all Foothills really needed, however. The Falcons tacked on two more to end it.

The Marauders finished the season at 27-5 – three more wins than last spring. The team came into the playoffs ranked second in the state and won the GCR title.

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